I am 31 years old, and this is the first year I’m celebrating pride out of the closet.
I grew up in a Christian home. Sunday school, church, and youth group was how I spent my Sundays. I participated in AWANAS on Wednesday and played in a church basketball league in the summers. So, from a young age I was taught that marriage is between a man and a woman.
I then attended Liberty University for my undergraduate degree. They offered me the most scholarships and it was the only way I could afford college. But while many of my friends explored who they were, made mistakes, and grew as a person, I really didn’t have that opportunity. I was scared that if I broke any of the rules I would lose my scholarships and not be able to finish school. So I really did nothing outside of school and work for those 4 years.
After my freshman year, I enlisted in the Army. This was 2009, so “don’t ask, don’t tell” was still in effect. Again this was going to help me get through college, so I just kept my head down and obeyed all the rules.
Fast forward almost a decade, I’m still living as someone I know deep down I am not. I’m trying to date guys because that’s what I’m supposed to do, that’s what I’ve been told all these years. But it never feels right and I’m pretty miserable. Definitely lonely and really struggling with self hate. I know how I feel and have felt for such a long time, but even as an adult I’m struggling with these feelings.
At my second police academy, I meet this amazing woman. She is fierce, driven, smart, and beautiful. I fall hard. She is all I think about, I honestly don’t know how I even passed the academy. She is gay and helps me to start feeling like it is ok to be me. Shortly after we graduate, we end up in different states. I call her and tell her that I’ve had a crush on her basically the entire academy. I know she doesn’t feel the same way, but finally telling a woman I have feelings for her was the first step I had to take to start feeling good about me. She let me down easy and we are still close friends.
After telling her, I start coming out to other friends and some family. I start dating this amazing girl right before Christmas. She knows I haven’t come out to my parents yet, but she supports me through that process. I finally tell them in February. I am beyond lucky to have them, all they asked was when they could meet her. I was worried for nothing.
It took me a long time to not only come out to others, but to myself. I hated a large part of me for a very long time. Learning to accept all of me and to just be me has been amazing.
This has been the best I have ever felt mentally, physically, and spiritually in a long time. I believe my relationship with Christ is even stronger now. I realized you cannot fully love Him if you don’t love yourself first. This is also the closest I have been to my family and good friends. Being able to be honest and open with them has brought us closer. Coming out is hard. Accepting yourself can be hard. But in the end it is worth it. Because life is so much better when you are you and not trying to be someone else.